Updated: Feb 22
The New Year is one of the preferred times to reflect and create goals and affirmations for the months ahead. Identifying and writing out what you truly want to accomplish is a great beginning – it provides clarity, motivation, and if you’re like me, a revived enthusiasm.
When January comes around, I tend to go overboard creating a most wonderful blueprint of best intentions. I design health goals, and relationship goals, career goals and self-development goals - complete with vision board. I love this stuff! Then I break down my long-range goals, sub-divided into yearly goals, whittled into monthly goals and further narrowed down into weekly goals. Then comes the lengthy to-do lists which I organize into my existing schedule. But no matter how much I tell myself “this is the year”, “this time I’m going to commit”, eventually I end up losing ground under the realities of life.
"Drop by drop is the water pot filled"
I discovered the road to self-development is not about goals and to-do lists; it’s about creating better habits. Only then have I been able to manifest lasting change. There are several theories out there, but the popular consensus is that it takes twenty-one days to develop a new habit. The only true way I have been able to instill positive results is by choosing to tackle one habit at a time, and for the sake of simplicity, I incorporate one new habit a month. A little more than the recommended twenty-one days, but it works for me.
However, attaining even one new habit a month requires dedicated and undistracted attention. In other words, the time set aside for that one habit becomes the priority of my day. Everything else is secondary.
when it becomes a ritual for transformation,
is not only life-changing but life-expanding."
- Jen Williamson
Cultivating self-awareness is the first step towards positive change. When we get to know ourselves better, we create sentient goals and to-do lists in alignment to who we are. We begin to take action in areas of our lives that meet our vision and purpose as opposed to living within the mindless routine of perceived responsibility.
People journal for many reasons, but when it comes right down to it, Journaling is the practice of writing down your thoughts and feelings for the simple purpose of getting to know yourself better. When it comes to increasing self-awareness, Journaling gets five stars out of five. It is a proven and powerful tool consistently recommended by therapists, counsellors and spiritual advisors to help those with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction. The practice of Journaling offers endless rewards and benefits. It increases creativity, emotional intelligence, mental balance and general happiness. It allows for reflective insight like no other mechanism out there.
It does not take much to start a Journaling practise. Here are six simple steps to get you well on your way towards the daily habit of self-discovery:
Choose your medium. It can be as high-end as a leather-covered journal from a specialty stationary store, or a binder with three-ring paper. You can use a pencil or a fountain pen. Whatever works for you. My personal preference has always benn long-hand and recommend it over digital. But if the success of this habit depends on you going on a digital journey than it’s better than none at all.
Set yourself up for success. Have the writing supplies close at hand and know where you’re going to write. If you are new to journaling, start with a low time expectation like five minutes or so. When you journal on a daily basis, trust me, there will be moments when your hand is unable to keep up with your thought-flow and time will fly by. Ideally work up to a minimum of fifteen minutes a day. Use a timer in the beginning if you need it. When you start seeing results, the length of time will increase on its own.
Have a plan. Schedule and set aside the necessary time – preferably the same time every day. The best strategy with any new habit is to do it first thing in the morning – before the day gets away from you. But do whatever works best for your schedule and circadian rhythm.
Write. Journal whatever comes to mind but try to go deeper than tomorrow’s grocery list. If you have no idea where to begin, ask: How am I feeling today? What issue am I currently dealing with? What am I grateful for? What did I dream about last night? What was that funny thing my child said to me this morning?
Be present when Journaling. Eliminate any and all distractions. Fully absorb the experience. Even if it is only for ten minutes, make those ten minutes count.
Introduce colour. Draw, doodle, add pictures and photos – images are a wonderful addition and remind you this is meant to be a creative and enjoyable process.
I’ve always preferred the word ‘guidelines’ instead of ‘rules’ – but when it comes to Journaling, I would strongly recommend:
Drop the perfectionism. There’s no right or wrong way to journal. You don’t have to be a good writer; you don’t even need to be a good spellar (see what I did there?). Just have fun with the process.
As James Bond would say: “For your eyes darling". I love to write but hesitated with journal writing for years. What if someone found it? My deepest insecurities, lying bare and exposed for anyone to read. I couldn’t be genuine on the page for fear that I may hurt someone’s feelings if they ever laid eyes on my words. Make sure you keep your Journal in a private place that only you know about.
Your Journaling space should be sacred. Find somewhere that triggers your brain: “it’s time to journal”. A cozy nook, nestled on pillows against your headboard, or at your dining room table when the kids go off to bed. Wherever it is, the time you write and where you write is just for you.
Review your journal and reflect on what you’ve written – it doesn’t have to be the same day or even the same week, but don’t let more than a couple of weeks go by without rereading your words.
By unraveling the events of your life and excavating the emotions entwined within them, you will be astonished in the most amazing way when you suddenly see something with great clarity, and wonder why you’ve never seen it that way before.